The Life, Times of Strongman of Kwara Politics

Date: 2012-11-15

Widely regarded as strongman of Kwara politics, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki died yesterday at the age of 79. Our Kwara State correspondent, Abdullahi Olesin reports on the life and times of the man fondly called Baba Oloye .

Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki, the second republic Senate leader and leader of the Northern Union (NU) was born on May 17, 1933 to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Mukhtar Saraki. He hailed from Agbaji quarters in Ilorin West local government area of Kwara state.

Saraki attended Edward Blyden School, Lagos (1941 - 1946), Eko Boys High School, Lagos (1946 - 1947), Rev. Lucas Collegiate (1948 - 1951), Chatnam Tech. College, UK (1952 - 1953), Medway College, Kent, UK (1954 - 1956), University of London, UK (1956 - 1959), St. George' Hospital Medical School, and Hyde Park Corner, London (specialists in surgery) (1959 - 1962).

Married to Mrs. Morenike Saraki, and blessed with four children. They include the immediate past governor of the state, Senator Bukola Saraki, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, Tope Edu (Nee Saraki) and Laolu Saraki.

In 1959, the late Saraki headed the Nigerian students delegation in London to welcome Sir Ahmadu Bello, premier of northern Nigeria and other dignitaries to the United Kingdom.

He constested election into the Federal House of Representatives in Alapa/Asa federal constituency in 1964 and was a member of the 16-man committee that gave Kwara State its name in 1967, with capital at Ilorin.

Saraki also represented Ilorin local government in the constituent assembly in 1979, to fashion out the 1979 Constitution for Nigeria and was later elected senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1979, on the platform of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and was later elected Senate leader in 1979 - 1983.

Late Saraki was a member of the National Conference in 1994 and chairman, Business Committee to usher in a new constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He was chairman, Kwara State, National Party of Nigeria (NPN).

Saraki was national vice chairman of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) and was also national leader of the defunct Congress for National Consensus (CNC). He was the national leader of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (APP) now (ANPP) and a politician of great repute who contributed immensely to the political development of Kwara State and Nigeria.

As a philanthropist, Saraki built water tanks in Ilorin metropolis and also bought water tankers to fetch water from Oyo State for citizens of Ilorin and launched the first poverty alleviation programme for the people of Ilorin without collecting back money given out under the programme. He also established bakeries for the Ilorin community when there was shortage of bread in the town.

He gave free medical services to the people of Ilorin and awarded scholarship to many students both in Nigeria and abroad. He single handedly tarred the Pakata Road, Ilorin.

Saraki was turbaned the Turaki of Ilorin in 1974 and was made patron of Ansarul Islam Society of Nigeria in 1975. He was also patron of Yanmata Arewa Consultative council and donated to the fund for the establishment of many religious institutions and places of worship across Nigeria. He was a member of Lagos Tennis Club, Lagos and sponsored the first media tennis tournament in Nigeria. He was an ardent tennis player and a member of many international organizations.

Until his death, Baba Oloye as he was fondly called by his admirers loomed large enough as a benefactor of extraordinary capacity, an attribute that made him an integral part of many lives among the people and a stabilizing influence in the politics of his fatherland.

Though, Saraki lost the first election he contested in 1964, he later emerged as the kingmaker of Kwara politics, installing governors, legislators at the state and federal levels at will. He also decided who got what in the running of the affairs of the state ever since that time. After his defeat in the 1964 House of Representatives election, he carefully made his inroads into Ilorin and Kwara politics, got himself introduced where it mattered and made friends with all and sundry.

Saraki at that time, it was gathered, decided to make women an important factor in his politics. He gave them his full attention, lent them his ears and allowed them easy access to himself and wherever he was in Ilorin, Lagos and even abroad. In furtherance of his belief in the political empowerment of women, in 1980, Saraki organized a four-week enlightenment trip to the United Kingdom for 27 Ilorin womenfolk, many of whom had never seen the four walls of a classroom.

By the return of politics in 1978, Saraki was battle ready. He launched himself forcefully into the arena, so much that the party he decided to join could not but reckon with him. The party, the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), won the elections in Kwara State and Saraki's candidate, Alhaji Adamu Atta, became the governor of the state.

The party also won majority seats into the state House of Assembly. As a fall out of the electoral successes, a number of Kwara State indigenes got appointed as commissioners, chairmen or members of statutory bodies. With these astounding victories in the state, followed by his own success in the senatorial election, Saraki became one of the dominant figures in the NPN hierarchy.

Thus, in the National Assembly, Saraki was made the leader of the Senate while he also got two Kwara citizens into the federal cabinet. One of them was an Ilorin frontline politician, Alhaji Akanbi Oniyangi who was appointed as minister of defence by Shehu Shagari's adminstration. The other was Alhaji Ali Makele of blessed memory. In addition, a number of people from Kwara State were given appointments in the federal administration as chairmen or members of statutory organisations.

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